Wednesday, May 6, 2009

MASSACHUSETTS POLICE TAPPING INTO PRIVATE DATA OF CELEBRITIES

Boston Globe - Police from communities across the state have repeatedly tapped into the state's criminal records system to improperly access information on celebrities and "high-profile citizens," according to a scathing audit released yesterday that also branded the system as obsolete and flawed.

Law enforcement personnel looked up personal information on Patriots star Tom Brady 968 times - seeking anything from his driver's license photo and home address, to whether he had purchased a gun - and auditors discovered "repeated searches and queries" on dozens of other celebrities such as Matt Damon, James Taylor, Celtics star Paul Pierce, and Red Sox owner John Henry, said two state officials familiar with the audit.

The Criminal Offender Record Information system, with its massive databases of criminal records, driving histories, car ownership, and Social Security numbers, is intended to provide police and prosecutors with complete portraits of individuals who have been arrested or brought into the court system. Reports are available to other users such as landlords and some employers conducting background checks on prospective tenants and job seekers. Access is supposed to be restricted to authorized law enforcement users, who are specially trained.

But the yearlong review by state Auditor A. Joseph DeNucci depicts a system repeatedly accessed by users "without any apparent work-related justification."

Such unauthorized use could be considered fraud under federal law, and "disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal and/or criminal prosecution" could follow misuse of the system, DeNucci's audit said. . .

Thomas Nee, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, said he was stunned by the misuse of the system. "Anyone caught socially surfing that important law enforcement asset should be stripped of their right to use it," he said. "It's outrageous."

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